Tuesday, January 31, 2012

MARGIE (1946)

Margie (Jeannie Crain) and her teenage daughter are cleaning out the attic and come upon some artifacts of Margie's own teen years during the late 1920s, leading Mom to tell the story of her senior year in high school. Back then, Margie was lovely but a little awkward socially—at least 3 times during the movie, she loses her bloomers because she's negligent about attending to the elastic. She begins dating the nerdy but nice Roy (Alan Young), but quickly falls for the new handsome and sophisticated French teacher, Mr. Fontayne (Glenn Langan). Actually, most of the girls in school are gaga for him, though he seems interested in Miss Palmer, the librarian (Lynn Bari). When Roy falls ill and can't take Margie to the prom, she gets the impression that Mr. Fontayne is going to step in and take her, which is what she tells her best friend, but instead he's taking Miss Palmer. How will Margie ever save face?

It feels like this cutesy nostalgia piece was conceived to cash in the popularity of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. It’s light, fluffy and likeable but can't compete with the Judy Garland classic. For starters, the plot is satisfyingly thin, rarely straying from Margie and Mr. Fontayne’s "will they or won’t they get together" storyline. There is a sideplot involving Margie's widowed undertaker father of whom she sees very little, which gets folded into the prom plot. There is also a nice comic scene of Margie participating in a debate club event. However, both Alan Young and Lynn Bari are wasted in trifling roles, the bloomers gag gets old fast, and though the movie is in color, it's not very colorful. There are a few pluses: Crain is lovely and generally charming and Langan pulls off the good-looking, older man role well, without ever seeming creepy (it's dropped at one point that he's really not that much older than Crain, just in case the audience is a little queasy). Period music is used to good effect. The best scenes in the film are stolen by Barbara Lawrence as Marybelle, Crain's sexy blonde best friend, and Conrad Janis as her hunky jock boyfriend "Johnnykins"; the two have chemistry and when they're on screen, they can’t stop moving, always dancing together even when there's no music. The movie's worth watching for those two alone. [TCM]

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